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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Dave-ja vu on dementia

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The Department of Health press release popped into my inbox yesterday ‘STRICTLY EMBARGOED - NOT FOR PUBLICATION OR BROADCAST BEFORE 0001 THURSDAY 8 NOVEMBER’ and another ‘STRICTLY EMBARGOED’ just to make sure. Exciting.

The Prime Minister was announcing ‘Britain’s biggest ever project’ on recognising the signs of dementia. My journalist’s antennae started to twitch.

There was to be ‘extra support’ for GPs on dementia to better equip them to spot and diagnose dementia. There would be a ‘requirement’ to ask all patients aged between 65 and 74 about their memory as part of every standard health check. A million ‘dementia friends’ were to be recruited.

This definitely looked like a big story and a big change for GPs. The Pulse team started to mobilise.

But wait a minute. Some of this sounded suspiciously familiar? Didn’t we do a story in March about this?

Oh, yes. Speaking at the Dementia 2012 Conference, Prime Minister David Cameron said: ‘At their usual five-yearly health check, as well as when they normally see their GP, those at risk will be referred on – just as they would be with a heart problem.’

So let me get this straight – the PM is renouncing the same policy that he announced eight months ago? DH press officer: ‘Er, yes.’

Thanks for the reminder, but my cognition is working just fine thanks.

So what about the ‘extra support’ for GPs? A toolkit to help them know where to refer patients? Just what practices need – another fancy binder to put on a shelf and get dusty.

Surely the real issue is that GPs have very few options to suggest to patients who are diagnosed with dementia – there are no real treatments and memory clinics are few and far between. How is a toolkit going to help with this?

Ah – but there will be a million new ‘dementia friends’ around to help. Well, that is a relief… isn’t it?

Nigel Praities is Pulse’s deputy editor.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Thanks for your very clear exposition of ' there are no real treatments and memory clinics are few and far between'. I think it is a travesty that we in health continue to demand more funds when we have nothing, other than perhaps kind words to offer to the patients and more particularly their families. And social care/supportive care which could at lease offer some relief/respite continues to be cut to the bone with only critical cases considered for support. The only legitimate call that health should be making should be for further research funding for dementia. The rest is just feathering our nest at the expense of other valuable offers. Disgraceful. And and I am not in any way associated with social care. Just a citizen who thinks that the pie should be distributed appropriately.

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  • David Bush

    Well said Sunita. Again politicians are dabbling in clinical care. They should ask us what is required, not tell us what to do. Despite being steadily deprived of all professional pride, we still feel that as a profession we have more medical expertise than your average MP (or PM).

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